Search Engine Land's New Look

Search Engine Land turned two years old this month. In that time, our content has blossomed. We run nearly 20 columns on search marketing issues, routinely post multiple brief items per day about breaking search news along with regular long, in-depth analysis or “How To” stories. Our old design didn’t serve to present this content well. So today, we present a fresh new face to Search Engine Land. Below, an introduction to the new design along with new features, including a return to allowing comments directly within our stories plus a new “Members Only” section — and a special request to our regular readers to consider becoming premium members.

Premium Memberships

I’ll start with a pitch. We put a huge amount of work into producing top quality content each day. Advertising does help pay some of the bills. But having been through the dotcom downturn years, I know how important a membership area is to ensuring that a quality editorial site can thrive and survive through the inevitable ups-and-downs of advertising. Please consider Search Engine Land to be a shareware site. If you like what you see, become a premium member to help support it (the form should be working later on today).

If a guilt pitch isn’t enough to encourage you, how about some bribes? Premium Members are entitled to a number of benefits available through our new Members Only area, including:

  • Member Library: Two years worth of stories have been diligently categorized into topics such as Google: SEO, Google: AdWords, Search Marketing and Search Statistics — plus many of our articles also recount the history of a particular topic even further into the past. Everything we’ve written remains available to the general public. But if you want those articles organized for easy browsing and review, that’s what the Members Library provides. So want to get up to speed on a particular topic? Need a handy reference resource to what happened when and why? You won’t find a more up-to-date and comprehensive resource on the web, promise.
  • How To Section: This is a special area of our Members Library where we have categorized stories that are particularly “How To” in nature. If you’re looking for specific advice on tips and tactics, the How To section has it.
  • Video Content: Search Engine Land produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. Search Engine Land members have access to selected video from our events. Content from our recent SMX East conference will be posted in about a week, and more video will be added from events going forward.
  • Conference Discounts: As a premium member, we ensure you receive the highest discount available to any of our events for those purchasing single tickets (Buying tickets for a group? We love you! We have special group rates for those cases). Discount codes are available to members within the Members Only area.
  • Exclusive Newsletters: It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the amount of search news that happens each day. That’s why Search Engine Land has long offered the Search Month newsletter, an easy to read, carefully organized summary of everything we’ve covered in a particular month. This newsletter now becomes available only to our premium members, as a special thank you for their support. In addition, a new Search Week newsletter is also starting, offered also to our premium members.
  • Premium Profile & Commenting: Comments from premium members are whitelisted. That means you won’t find that our anti-spam filter has accidentally gobbled up your post for approval before it appears. In addition, you won’t have to deal with another spam-fighting tool, filling in a CAPTCHA code before posting. This doesn’t mean that it’s anything goes. Comments that don’t meet our community guidelines may still get edited or removed after human review. And before anyone gets crazy thinking that becoming a premium member means an easy way to drop links, our community guidelines do require that any links be relevant to the post — and we do use nofollow on them regardless of whether someone is a premium member or not. Sorry about that. If we didn’t, we’d immediately have people suggesting the premium memberships are simply a backdoor link selling scheme. They’re not. Finally, those with premium memberships who comment on Search Engine Land get to have an avatar to go with their comments, as well as a special recognition of their supporter status.

New Front Page & Departments

The most dramatic change is how our home page appears. Most blogs take a first-in, last-out approach. Whatever is the latest story pushes down all the other stories, and eventually older stories drop off the home page. That’s a bad thing when you have important stories that need better “play” or visibility through the day. Our new design is meant to highlight our content in a more reader-friendly manner. In particular:

  • Top News: This is the most prominent section on the page and shows you the most important stories, at the moment. Up to three top news stories are shown, and you can easily click through to see a longer list. Use the “Read more” link at the end of the last story. For other news types described below, there are also similar “Read more” links that you can use.
  • Search News Briefs: These are smaller stories that we think are of interest but perhaps not to as many people. Given this, only headlines are shown, and they are tucked next to our Top News stories.
  • Features & Analysis: These are long, in-depth stories that we want to ensure are well seen by those coming to the home page. Often, they may also have been a Top News story that then shifts over to this area, as more Top News comes in.
  • Latest How To Articles: When we have a story particularly full of tips and tactical advice, we highlight these on the home page.
  • Columns: We have a wonderful group of over 50 columnists who cover a wide range of topics. This section ensures that each column is shown throughout the day that it first appeared. To add a human touch, we now show the picture of the columnist.

All of the content above is also available through the navigation links at the top of the page: How To, News (includes Top News & Search News Briefs), Features & Analysis & Columns. Just click on one of those links if you want to drill deeper into a particular story type.

Newsletters & Feeds

If you do nothing else when visiting Search Engine Land, sign-up for our SearchCap newsletter. You won’t be sorry. We think that newsletter is so valuable that we have a big sign-up box in the right-hand corner of virtually every page on the web site.

SearchCap gives you an end-of-the-day review of everything we’ve posted on Search Engine Land. You’ll see all the top stories, news briefs, features and columns with a headline and story summary, allowing you to clickthrough and read items of particular interest.

In addition, SeachCap carries anywhere from 25 or more headlines about search from publications around the web. Our hard working news editor Barry Schwartz diligently scans content from nearly 500 different sources to cull the most interesting and important stories. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by trying to scan feeds yourself, sit back and let Barry and SearchCap do it for you. You won’t be sorry.

Want the latest news as it happens? Then take our Search Engine Land Feed. You’ll be alerted whenever we post anything new to Search Engine Land, be it a top news story, a news brief or a column.

Beyond these two key resources, we also offer a number of other feeds and newsletters. These are fully described on our Newsletters & Feeds page. To quickly summarize, we also offer:

  • Email newsletter for each column
  • Feeds alerts for each column
  • Feed alerts for particular authors

Note that a common question is, “Why doesn’t Search Engine Land offer a full-text feed?” The answer remains as always — too many places across the web interpret a full-text feed as permission to reprint our stories in their entirety. Yes, there are various suggestions on how text might be inserted to warn against this use or to alert readers in other places if content is being reprinted without permission. We’ll continue to examine these and consider a shift. But for the time being, we remain doing a “hybrid” feed, where short news briefs, along with SearchCap, go out as full-text. Longer stories go out in summary form. Columns are available in full-text if you take them via email.

Comments Are Back!

When we launched our Sphinn social news site for internet marketers back in July 2007, we stopped allowing comments directly on Search Engine Land itself. Instead, you had to submit our stories to Sphinn, and we made the comments from Sphinn flow back into our stories.

It’s always been kind of a clunky solution. We did it not to help jump-start Sphinn (though that might have been a side-benefit) but instead because we had a smaller staff back then, and watching over the comments on two different sites was incredibly difficult.

Since then, we’ve gained a great editor over at Sphinn, Rob Kerry, as well as a dedicated staff of moderators. Meanwhile, our staff here at Search Engine Land has grown. This means comments directly at Search Engine Land can return, as we have the time to monitor them better.

We love comments. Really, we do. Nothing is better after writing a story than seeing that someone has something to say about it. Something great? Fantastic! Something negative? Well, we learn from that and understand others’ opinions. Something with new material that adds to a story? Those are the best comments.

Comments are subject to our community guidelines, with the top rules being to be respectful and polite, drop links only if they are relevant and adding to a story, and to use common sense when commenting. You can comment on any story up to 90 days after it was published. We’ll also see if comments come in for stories that are older than this and publish those selectively.

You have to register to comment. Sorry. Blam spam. Damn spam. Registration is one of the best ways to prevent spam. Provide your email address (no, we won’t sell it to anyone!), verify your email and you’re set to start commenting. OK, two more protection levels. We do have basic anti-spam software that watches for things that are typical of spammy comments, and we use one of those read-the-image-enter-the-code CAPTCHA things to keep spam under control. Again, sorry, blame spam. Don’t want the hassle of spam filters? Become a premium member and you bypass both the anti-spam software and the CAPTCHA. Why allow premium members such an expressway? We think few people are going to go through the trouble of becoming a premium member just to spam us (and should they actually do this to drop a spam link, well, we’ll catch it on the human side).

By the way, while you can comment on stories at Search Engine Land directly, we’re still thrilled if you submit them to Sphinn!

Columns & Authors & Bios

I’ve mentioned that we have nearly 20 columns. Our Columns page nicely lists all of these, plus makes it easy to either subscribe to them via email or through a feed.

Behind our columns and contributed pieces are more than 50 authors. You can view everyone here. See some missing pictures for some of our columnists? We’re working on it!

Every column — in fact every article on Search Engine Land — now includes the author’s photo as well as a bio, so you know a little bit more about them. The bios also lead to a page where you can see all the stories written by that author or subscribe to a feed of their work.

This is a good time to remind everyone that columns express the opinions of columnists and not necessarily Search Engine Land itself. So what represents an “official” Search Engine Land view? That’s something written by one of our Search Engine Land editors. Even then, the editors themselves don’t necessarily agree about everything! More than anything else, I’d say that the official Search Engine Land view is that we want to help provide content that allows search marketer and others do better to make quality content visible in search engines and how to better convert visitors that come from that content. We also want to keep everyone informed about changes to the search landscape from a business standpoint, plus we seek to help those actually searching at the search engines do a better job.

Other Things

In our right-hand side-bar, you’ll generally find these units:

  • Ad: Gone are those six 125×125 ad units, replaced by a new single 300×250 display ad. And huge thanks to the advertisers who have supported us over the past two years and continue to do so as we go forward into our third. Want to advertise? Contact us here.
  • Sponsor Links: This is another way advertisers get recognized throughout the site. FYI, links are delivered via JavaScript with nofollow for those with no JavaScript, to ensure that they don’t pass link credit. We love our advertisers, but we also don’t want anyone thinking we’re selling links.
  • Conference Box: Search Engine Land runs conferences! Yes, we do! And they have their own brand, SMX: Search Marketing Expo. If you like what you get at Search Engine Land, think of SMX as Search Engine Land Live. This box shows you the latest shows.
  • Webcast Box: Search Engine Land runs webcasts. Yes we do! And they have their own brand, SMN: Search Marketing Now. Want to attend a seminar without having to travel? Check out what’s happening with SMN via this box.
  • Track Us Socially: Search Engine Land can be found on Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn and Twitter. Links to these places are provided.
  • Bragroll: We’ve earned a few kudos since we started. So we brag about some of them here.
  • Blogroll: Until a few weeks ago, we had a giant blogroll on our home page. It was super long. Huge. Longer than any blogroll that I think any other search-related blog offers. And we loved it. But it was so huge that it really needed to go on its own page. So it was moved over in advance of our redesign. But as part of the redesign, we now offer a sample of what’s in the full blogroll on every page. This way other sites with great content all get a bit of promotion to our readers.

Visiting from a mobile browser? You should be getting a new mobile view of the site. Later, we’ll add a Mobile View link to the bottom of the page, for those who want or need to manually enable this. Also at the bottom of the page is a link to Search Engine Land en Español site that launched earlier this year. That site still retains our old design; this might change in the future.

Bugs, Fixes & Dust

Just a reminder that there’s often some dust to settle after any relaunch. We have a number of redirects that should bring up pages that might be in old locations. We’re also working to close out any old dated “department” style pages from our old design that no longer serve a purpose or redirect them to the right location.

Our columns now have logos and bios that are delivered dynamically, but we haven’t stripped out all the old hard-coded bios and logos that are out there. So if you see us double-up, it’s accidentally, and we’re working on it.

We know there’s still lots of work to do. If you encounter a problem, with anything, just let us know!

Thanks!

It’s been a huge, nearly year-long effort to get to our new design, and some thanks are in order:

  • All the editors and staff at Search Engine Land, who have worked hard to diligently provide the best coverage of search plus provide thoughts and feedback on how we should change. Similar thanks to all of our contributors for all their hard work over the past two years, plus our sales and business staff at our parent company Third Door Media that have kept us running.
  • Vanessa Fox, our Features Editor, who in particular suggested a new magazine-style format plus connected us with our design firm, GKD.
  • GKD Custom Web Design, who worked us through a huge list of goals for the site, then to wireframes and mockups to the finished product you see today. Well, almost finished! As part of our next step, we’ll going to do a ton of usability testing that will lead to further tweaks.
  • FutureNow, who provided further advice on usability, persuasion architecture and will be helping us test what’s finally gone live.
  • Cesar Serna for helping us with a ton of back-end WordPress tweaks with more to come.
  • Elisabeth Osmeloski, our Managing Editor, for diligently diving in and typing her fingers to death to produce tons of new copy needed for all of our new sections.
  • Michelle Robbins, our Technical Director, for slogging it through the huge task of first migrating to WordPress and then getting an entire new design established on top of it.

Finally, a heartfelt thanks to all of our readers. You’ve grown over the years, provided us with feedback and made us feel that there’s an audience out there receptive to what we’ve been doing. We’re looking forward to serving you the best we can in the years to come.


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